East Africa 2012-2016


Supporting Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa (SAJCEA) was a four year project between the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and key partners in three countries in East Africa: Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The project was designed to meet the overall goal of increasing the safety and security of children and youth in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania by improving their ability to seek and obtain remedies for infringements of their rights. SAJCEA achieved this end by supporting a collaborative approach to improving legal services, public legal awareness, the administration of justice and law reform on issues relating to the rights of children and youth in the project countries. The ultimate goal of the project was enhancing access to justice for children and youth - both boys and girls - in each of the countries.

The Project was funded by Global Affairs Canada (formerly the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development) and supported by the voluntary contributions of legal professionals in Canada and East Africa.

Over the course of the project CBA members, senior child justice experts and young legal professional interns gave a total of 1,555 volunteer days, a dollar value of $1,247,792 to the project – a valuable contribution of time and effort, without which SAJCEA and its successes would not have been possible.

“I found the experience very rewarding, both personally and professionally,” says British Columbia Crown counsel Janet Dickie, who went to Kenya in September, 2016, to train prosecutors in forensic child interviewing. “This is very important work for the CBA. We have a long tradition of an independent and vibrant bar that has so much to offer around the world. The most important result was bringing prosecutors from across Kenya together in the same room to share experiences and to develop knowledge as a group. I believe the program will help build a relationship between Kenya and Canada.”

Here is a brief rundown of the SAJECA project’s achievements:

  • Increased availability of legal services for children and youth – As a result of initiatives undertaken during the project, there has been an increase in the number of lawyers providing legal services – and in their willingness to do so pro bono.
    • In Kenya, more than 1,100 children received free legal aid services. Two law firms won constitutional challenges against legislation that had a negative impact on children’s wellbeing.
    • In Tanzania, 29 lawyers registered in a database to provide pro bono services to children, and 18 paralegals were trained and play a critical role in handling children’s cases in their communities.
    • In Uganda, 40 lawyers registered to provide pro bono legal services to children, and handled 300 cases over the life of the project. As well, 309 local counsels and 118 volunteer paralegals were trained on child rights and skills enhancement in handling children’s issues.
  • Increased awareness and demand for legal services by children and youth – The National Working Group in each of the project countries prepared information, written in plain language, which was distributed to the public to build awareness around the legal rights of children and youth. They also delivered gender-sensitive public legal education and awareness programs, using techniques such as drama and music programs in schools, and television and radio talk shows to reach children, youth and their families directly. Programs in communities and schools  also helped sensitize thousands of children to the issues of child abuse, domestic violence, child neglect, and the rights of children among others.
  • Improvement in the quality of legal services provided to children and youth – Over the course of the project, volunteers delivered more than 30 individual training sessions and awareness programs to justice system service providers in the three countries on topics such as effective child representation, child victim protection, forensic child interviewing, restorative justice and diversion. Those who took the training report that they not only improved their knowledge, but were able to make connections and network with others in the field, allowing them to collaborate to improve the standard of services delivered to children.

The impact of the SAJCEA project was both immediate and lasting, as the members of the national working groups, who came from a wide variety of institutions involved in child justice, created networks through their collaboration that will survive well into the future.